Monday, November 19, 2012

Israel's missed opportunity

Two years ago I wrote a (sadly) prescient piece about what I believed was a historic missed opportunity on the part of Israel's leaders: 

"When it comes to Israel and war, there are two questions: one is whether Israel has the right to keep pounding its enemies, and the other is whether it should keep doing so. The first question: Israel certainly has the right to defend itself. No doubt, it feels good to see Israel teach a terrorist group like Hamas a lesson, especially after Hamas provoked the Israeli response. The second question is harder to answer. Israel beat Hamas, but hundreds of innocents died in the process. The international community almost universally condemned Israel. Relations with Turkey in particular melted down to almost nothing. The most important thing to remember is that pounding Hamas did not actually accomplish anything for Israel. Hamas is still in Gaza, it is as radical as ever, and it is still arming. Israel cannot continue to engage in these wars with non-state actors who don't care how many of their own people die so long as they hurt Israel; it's like playing chicken with someone who is suicidal. Weapons and war can only make Israel safe in the short term; the only thing that can make it safe in the long term is compromise, negotiation, and peace."

This has been so tragically predictable.  No nation would or should tolerate rockets being fired at a fifth of its citizens, no matter how poorly aimed.  I don't blame Netanyahu for the last four days; his hand is forced.  The last four years?  That's a different story.  Hamas may be unwilling to negotiate, but Abbas and the PA have been sitting in the West Bank doing nothing.  Imagine if significant progress had been made towards Palestinian statehood there?  The people of Gaza could then look to the West Bank - a peaceful land on the verge of statehood, and contrast that to their own homes - again under Israeli attack after relentless provocation by extremists.  If you want people to reject violence and terrorism, it will be easier if they have an alternative.

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